- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 15, 2014

Islamist militants swept toward Baghdad on Sunday, leaving a bloody trail in their wake and putting pressure on the Obama administration to come up with a response as Republicans warned that sectarian violence in Iraq is making the world less safe with each passing day.

As the State Department pulled some people from its Baghdad embassy and bolstered security there, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a U.S. aircraft carrier to move into the Persian Gulf “should military options be required to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq,” the Pentagon said.

Members of Congress said it is time for the White House to link up with Arab allies and quell the violence.

SEE ALSO: President Obama ignored general’s pleas to keep American military forces in Iraq

Top Republicans said the administration has sat on the sidelines for too long as the fighting threatens to undo what U.S. troops accomplished during the war in Iraq. The bloodshed spurred by militants from an al Qaeda splinter group could topple the country’s fragile government while civil war rages in neighboring Syria, they said, offering a magnet for Islamist extremists from the region and even Western nations.

Iraq and Syria combined are going to be the staging area for the next 9/11 if we don’t do something about it,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

This image posted on a militant website on Saturday, June 14, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, appears to show militants from the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) taking aim at captured Iraqi soldiers wearing plain clothes after taking over a base in Tikrit, Iraq. The Islamic militant group that seized much of northern Iraq has posted photos that appear to show its fighters shooting dead dozens of captured Iraqi soldiers in a province north of the capital Baghdad. Iraq's top military spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi confirmed the photos’ authenticity on Sunday and said he was aware of cases of mass murder of Iraqi soldiers. (AP Photo via militant website)
This image posted on a militant website on Saturday, June 14, 2014, ... more >

Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, also held up the memory of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when warning of the consequences of an Islamist victory.

SEE ALSO: ISIL militants slaughter 1,700 Iraqis in mass execution

“We can’t wait days and weeks and months to scratch our heads in some political reconciliation process,” Mr. Rogers told “Fox News Sunday.” “We have to ask one single question: Is al Qaeda holding land the size of India a problem for the United States? Well, it certainly was when they were in Afghanistan and had time to plan the 9/11 event.”

However, Mr. Obama said Friday the U.S. will not send troops and stressed it is now time for the Iraqis to take full responsibility for their own security.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry spoke with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on Sunday to assure the Iraqis the U.S. is considering a range of options to help Iraq’s forces push back the militants’ advances.

CNN reported Sunday, based on discussions with an unnamed U.S. official, that from 50 to 100 Marines and soldiers had arrived at the Baghdad embassy, and that the Marines were men “who specialize in embassy protection during high-threat conditions.”

The battle lines for sectarian war in Iraq appeared to harden in recent days as the nation’s most-revered Shiite Muslim cleric called on all Iraqis to take up arms against the al Qaeda-inspired Sunni extremists who have seized control of several Iraqi cities and towns this week.

The appeal by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a religious leader known to pull tremendous sway over Iraq’s Shiite majority, came as leaders in nearby Iran, the region’s Shiite powerhouse, began deploying elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard units to Iraq to combat the rising Sunni insurgency.

In his appearance on CNN, Mr. Graham noted the irony of the U.S. and Iran both looking to prop up the central government in Baghdad, and while he answered “hell no” when asked whether he was completely happy about that, he also said it’d be far from an unprecedented case.

“We have common interests,” he said. “Why did we deal with Stalin [as an ally during World War II]? Because he was not as bad as Hitler.”

In the latest turn of events, Islamist fighters posted graphic photos that appeared to show its fighters massacring dozens of captured Iraqi soldiers.

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